"The Italian Greyhound, a true sighthound in miniature, has been around since the 13th and 14th centuries. Egyptian tombs show many sizes of sighthounds present. At one time we speculate they were used in hunting small game, and when they were adopted into Italian society many many years later, we believe they were castle vermin catchers and perhaps we'd like to think bedwarmers as well. The Italian Greyhound is by far the smallest of all racing and coursing hounds, often under 12 pounds.
For Conformation, in FCI countries the Italian Greyhound (IG) is in the Sighthound group, but here in the USA it is in the Toy Group.
A delightful companion and often thought of as a "velcro dog" in that the IG wishes to please and be on or near you at all times. Yet this is a breed that is very single minded and aloof at times, making it somewhat difficult to train in the same ways as a larger dog. Reputed to be one of THE most difficult dogs to housebreak, it takes time and patience and consistency to accomplish a truly housebroken iggy. It definitely CAN be done, I have 6 housebroken iggies here. But the faint of heart needs to be forewarned. Only positive and mild or no negative reinforcement will win the day. Since this is a very tiny dog of only 8 to 13 pounds on average, with a very slender body on long thin legs, the IG is not for everyone. They are hardier than they look, especially if well bred, however need a home that is set up in an iggy safe way, with traction, and preferably with no high jumpable places or road hazards.
If IGs are well socialized and well exercised as puppies and build strong bones with good food, they can be very hardy and absolutely adore to race and lure course. Many of them are as gamey as their larger cousins.. They need like any breed to be kept in fit and fiddle condition if you are going to do performance sports with them. Many excel in LGRA, some in NOTRA, and quite a few in both AKC and ASFA Lure Coursing. There are also some MACH iggies out there in the Agility fields. The statistics are actually astounding, considering their size. IGs actually hold the 1st and 2nd position in the Top Ten LGRA standings All Breed for 2006. More and more people are now starting to race and course their Italian Greyhounds since the breed has been accepted onto the tracks and fields.
Like many other sighthounds, the IG recognizes it's own kind out of any crowd and will gravitate toward other IGs. We often have local playdates with over 50 IGs milling around and visiting or playing together well. Aggression is highly unusual in this breed, and I cannot stress enough the need to socialize and early on.
Yet is is a breed characteristic for IGs to be somewhat aloof, so expect them to discriminate when getting to know you or other strange people outside their usual families. They like to get to know you slowly sometimes.
The IG is certainly capable of being a family dog, however is not always the best choice for small children, that will depend on how well you provide both the child and the IG with it's own safe space and very specialized rules with no rough play, or picking up and holding, and NO open doorways where they can escape onto the roadways or unfenced areas. One thing about this tiny sighthound is that it is a tiny hunter and will seek opportunities to chase just about anything, being totally blind to oncoming traffic in it's quest for it's prey. Very much like other sighthounds, but small enough to dart out quickly. Therefore this is a breed that MUST be on leash or in a securely fenced and escape free yard area. Also mixing the IG with dogs of larger size and weight is often not the best choice. It certainly can be done successfully, however the family does need to manage the dogs in separate spaces when allowed freedom. Occasionally such a tiny dog can be seen as prey to the larger breeds, and to larger sighthounds. Care must be taken as they are way smaller in class and with thin legs can be knocked about resulting in broken legs or other injury. I cannot stress this enough, as the number one and two reasons that IGs are turned over to Rescue are Housebreaking issues and families that have just had children and cannot merge the IG and the child into one happy family.
Given that the IG only has one layer of coat and a very thin one at that, it is not a breed that can live outside. It needs supervised outdoor playtime and rest time, but is highly susceptable to extreme heat or cold. There just is no fat on those little bodies.
I often say that an IG in temperament is like a cross between a kitty cat and a perpetual two year old child. Curious, loving, needy, attentive with a sense of humor about life.
Written by Vikki Landes, 2004